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Tech firms building backup wireless system to rescue Hoboken from future Sandy

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Hoboken-area technology entrepreneurs are developing a public Wi-Fi system for the town, a volunteer effort intended to provide a backup wireless system in the event of storm or outage.

Aaron Price, the founder of NJ Tech Meetup and livecube.co, is one of the leaders of the effort, and said the goal is to have the system running by Oct. 29, the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. He said the first priority is helping emergency personnel's ability to respond to events where wireless and telecommunications systems are badly damaged.

"The idea is we can build some infrastructure so that if something like Hurricane Sandy hits again, we'll have a backup infrastructure to support the town for emergency preparedness," Price said.

Price said the system would run based on mesh wireless networking, or a connection of wireless access points scattered around the community. Price said similar networks have been set up in places ranging from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Barcelona.

The project, called MileMesh, is being built with smart routers purchased with help from a $3,000 grant from NYCWireless. Price said the low-cost technology enables different parts of the community to connect online with one another.

The network will start with about 10 locations, which Price said can expand to add public venues and be used for nonemergency purposes.

The volunteer initiative consists of Price and members of NJ Tech Meetup, a network for aspiring technology entrepreneurs, lending their expertise. Details of deployment are still being finalized.

"We can't let Hoboken go off the grid like this again," the group says on milemesh.com, a website that helps organize MileMesh activities. "And we can't wait for Verizon or Cablevision to harden their systems. Despite repeated calls from Congress and the Federal Communications Commission, the telecommunications industry is resisting new requirements for backup power for cell sites and other critical communications facilities. We have to fix this problem ourselves so that our community is prepared for the next big crisis."


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